Government

Ryan Tells Local Press Why He’s Challenging Pelosi

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Seeking a leadership post was never his ambition, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan said, but he felt he had to step forward after last week’s election, in which Republicans maintained majorities in both houses of Congress and won the White House.

The Nov. 8 election “really rocked the Democratic Party,” causing many Democrats to reevaluate their position in the party, Ryan, D-13 Ohio, said this afternoon. Ryan met with local reporters at the conference room of the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber for the first time since formally announcing he would challenge Nancy Pelosi as minority leader.

Pelosi has claimed she has the backing of two-thirds of the House Democratic caucus, although Ryan said he has received strong support since announcing his bid yesterday.

“I don’t believe we can win back the House with the leadership that we have,’” Ryan stated bluntly. Democrats need a leader who can go into the districts that Democrats need to pick up and campaign for them. Democrats also need to recruit good candidates, which Ryan says the party won’t get if they don’t believe the Democratic leader can come campaign for them.

He believes Democrats have a chance to reclaim the seats the party needs because of the historical trend of the party in power losing seats during mid-term elections. He is concerned about not being able to capitalize on that opportunity if the party has the wrong leader in place.

The reality is that Democrats aren’t winning elections, he said. He pointed not only to last week’s loss but the 2010 election in which Democrats lost the House but subsequent elections in which they failed to reclaim it and Republicans took the Senate as well.

“I felt very strongly that we had for a long time ignored working class people that were our neighbors here in communities like ours,” he said. “That really came home to roost in this election when we lost states like Pennsylvania, Ohio , Michigan, Wisconsin. This had to do with us not having an economic message that the people in our community needed to hear.”

Instead, working-class voters turned to Donald Trump, who “brilliantly” talked about the economic anxiety many of them felt.

“We can’t keep going down the same road,” Ryan said. “We’ve got to try something different and we are not meeting our obligation to the people of the country by putting us in a position that is going to be so difficult for us to move forward.”

The congressman, elected to an eighth term in the U.S. House of Representatives last week, reiterated several times during the news conference that choosing to challenge Pelosi for leadership of the caucus wasn’t an easy decision and he took “no joy” in it. “Somebody needed to take a stand and make the argument for our party,” he said.

He also dismissed the idea that if he lost Pelosi might strike back at him, perhaps even remove him from his slot on the Appropriations Committee. “That would be an unprecedented move,” he remarked. He also said he “would rather bear any downside” than not make the decision to get his message out.

“I don’t hang all this on Nancy Pelosi,” he added. “There’s plenty of blame to go around, but the facts are the facts.”

Democrats need to stay focused on an economic message, he said. Voters in areas that look more like the Mahoning Valley than not “completely abandoned” Democrats last week. “If we’re not willing to admit that then shame on us,” he said. Much of the next two years will be focused on pushing back on policies of the Trump administration and the GOP-controlled Congress that “hurt people like us,” he said.

Democrats also need to think about what he called “America 2.0” will look like and having an “aspirational vision for our country and our economy.” That involves doing many of the things being done in the Mahoning Valley, such as the development of the Youngstown Business Incubator and America Makes, he said.

“What we’re doing here, they’re doing in Silicon Valley. We can do it anywhere.”

ANALYSIS:
Ryan’s Policy Agenda Wins Even If He Loses

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.